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Indians second-largest US migrant population

india Updated: Jun 20, 2010 19:22 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
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Indian-Americans probably became the second-largest immigrant population in the United States last year, says an analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

Indian-Americans definitely became the third-largest migrant population sometime between 2007 and 2008 says a new MPI study on the community. The study says 1.6 million US citizens and permanent residents were Indian citizens at the time of birth.

This put Indian-Americans as just a few tens of thousands behind Filipino-Americans. However, according to the latest Current Population Surveys of the US Census, far more Indians came into the US in 2009 than Filipinos.

“Based on the CPS data – the most recently published are from March 2009 – it looks like the Indian immigrant population probably surpassed the Filipino immigrant population in 2009,” says Aaron Terrazas, an analyst at MPI.

This would make Indian-Americans second only to Mexican-Americans in numbers, an extrapolation that he says is “plausible.”

Confirmation would have to wait until the ongoing US Census presents its findings. Terrazas points out that by another data set, those of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, as many Filipinos as Indians entered the US this year.

But this data has limitations. For one thing, he notes, “OIS data measure events rather than individuals – thus an individual on a temporary visa who enters the country more than once due to normal travel will be counted multiple times.”

What these numbers show is a huge surge in Indian migration to the US in the past decade.

In 1990, Indian-Americans were the 14th largest migrant population and numbered less than half-a-million. Their numbers have surged since 2000 and they are today one of the fastest growing migrant populations: 40 per cent of Indian-Americans came to the US in the past 10 years.

This has been all the more remarkable given that US laws are strongly biased towards immigrants who already have family residing in the US. Indians used student visas and H visas for skilled workers as their ladders into the US.

This structural bias is why Indian-Americans are the best-educated minority group in the US.

“The concentration of Indians in high tech and high education sectors reflects, one, a bias against individuals without family in the US and, two, a bias in favor of individuals who pursue post-secondary studies in the US,” Terrazas says.

The community is now large enough, however, to exploit the more traditional family reunion visa door. The US’s economic downturn and the drop in H visa quotas thus had little impact on Indian migration.

Terrazas says, “ Indians now have extensive family networks in the US so family-based immigration is likely grow. In fact, between 2007 and 2008, the number of Indian immigrants in the US grew faster than any other group.”